Hamas & Fatah

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Hamas won a landslide victory over Fatah in the recent parlimentray election (January 2006) in Palestine. The casual observer probably has no idea what this means, so I've taken it upon myself to ask a couple of questions:

How does Hamas differ from the Fatah? They ran for power with the assertion that Fatah is corrupt and incapable. Exactly what has Fatah been doing compared to what Hamas has been doing?


According to a 2002 article by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Marwan Barghouti, head of Fatah and Tanzim, (was?) also the most senior official of the al-Aqsa Martyrs, took part in or was responsible for many suicide bombings. The article also has a laundry list of terrorist groups affiliated with the Palestinian Authority and Fatah.

There are multiple quoted statements (in an About.com article) from members of Fatah and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade establishing the relationship between these groups.

In 2004, Barghouti was the most popular figure to have filled Arafat's vacant position, but chose to not run considering he is in an Israeli prison, serving five life sentences. His choice to not run secured Mahmud Abbas' run for the leadership position of the PLO. Had he not stepped down from the race, this would have resulted in a "destructive rift in the Palestinian dominant Fatah movement" according to Iran Daily.

Though the potential rift in Fatah does not directly relate to the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian parliment, it does point out that there are factions in Fatah that split along the ideological differences between Barghouti and Abbas. It is perhaps these differences that have lead to the large trunout of support for Hamas in this election. According to Iran Daily, Abbas is seen as a moderate, and Barghouti is a "firebrand".


Where Fatah's non-militant arm is a political, government centric organization, Hamas' equivilent is more of a Palestinian version of the Red Cross, playing the part of Robin Hood to Fatah's Sherrif of Nottingham.

In an article in the St Petersburg Times, Susan Taylor Martin describes Hamas as an organization that goes out of its way to feed, clothe and shelter Palestinians. This is quite a contrast to their military arm, which is involved in many suicide attacks on Israel. The article also does a good job detailing the different Palestinian political/military factions.

A difference in methods

The difference between the two groups is apparent in an AP article posted on Boston.com. "Hamas says it drove Israel out with attacks, while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas credits his nonviolent approach." Another apparent difference is in their approach toward the common Palestinian. Hamas seems to have cornered the market on supporting the populace, whereas Fatah seems to not know they exist.

With popular support from both the downtrodden commoners, and support from alienated members of Fatah who want a more militant less political approach toward Israel, there is no wonder why Fatah lost so many seats in the Parliment.